Feeling old

WBaisley@aol.com WBaisley@aol.com
Tue, 29 Jan 2002 21:29:57 EST


> Some other states are, IMO, way behind in their weirdness-
> per-capita: New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania.

Nah, none that fancyshmancy stuff for us; we just got good old fashioned 
payola in Illinoise.  But since Bush followed Sen. Fitzpatrick's advice and 
appointed an actual independent federal attorney who don't owe nuttin' to the 
Daley-Ryan combine, t'ings is gettin' shook up over by dere.  It's gotten 
so's an alderman can't even clout his chinaman no more.  They even arrested 
the citystate's biggest insurance dealmaker yesterday [0].

As for me, come Saturday, I will have been computing for a living for 26 
years.  Longer than the average age of the chiquitas dancing with Irish 
brains in French lounges.  But I don't feel particularly old yet.  50's more 
than a year off.

Cheers,
Wayne

[0]  
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/columnists/chi-0201290247jan29.column?coll=

chi%2Dnews%2Dcol

Rest insured, political pals feel Segal's pain

John Kass

January 29, 2002

If you happen to see the politicians scratching at a case of unsightly hives, 
don't worry. They're not contagious.

It's only a case of federal nerves.

The new U.S. attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald, and the new FBI chief of the 
Chicago office, Thomas J. Kneir, have been busily sending messages to the 
political class.

Last week, they sent FBI agents into the Cook County Building on a ghost 
payroll investigation.

The political payrollers were so terrified that they all showed up for work 
the next day, clogging the building but rekindling long-lost friendships.

Next, federal subpoenas were issued in the investigation of the newly putrid 
Rosemont casino deal.

And on Monday, the feds announced the arrest of a man who knows too much:

Mickey Segal, boss of Near North Insurance Brokerage.

Segal, a friend to many politicians, enemy to a few, was charged in 
connection with a $20 million insurance, embezzlement and mail fraud scheme, 
for allegedly dipping into client accounts.

You may remember Segal from this column. He has 17 acres of beautifully 
landscaped property around his Highland Park mansion.

But he only pays $689 a year in property taxes for those 17 acres. It's 
legal, because the 17 acres were assessed as "open land." Unfortunately for 
picnickers, there's a big gate and a large wrought-iron fence, so it's not 
too open.

Segal faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted of insurance fraud. That 
makes people nervous.

"Every guy in town who's done a deal with Segal is wondering about exposure," 
said a guy who knows Segal. "Naturally, that brings on the hives. It's 
probably more of a rash. But use `hives.' It's nicer."

Segal is a friend of Gov. George Ryan, and he's had business relationships 
with Ryan's son, George Jr. He also does insurance business with Mayor 
Richard Daley's brother, John, a Cook County commissioner.

By dint of hard work and keen business acumen, Johnny brokered the insurance 
through Near North for most of that wrought-iron fencing you see around the 
city.

In recent days, though, some of Segal's old pals have backed away.

"Don't call me a Mickey Segal guy anymore," Ald. Burton Natarus (42nd) told 
me a few days ago at City Hall. "I'm not a Mike Segal guy. Don't call me 
that."

There was a time when Burt would have changed the diapers on a carriage horse 
on a hot afternoon in July and then applied powder rather than even think 
about saying anything remotely negative about Segal.

But politicians can't abide weakness. It frightens them.

And for those wondering why reporters would spend so much time on an 
insurance man, it's simple:

Segal's story explains how Chicago works.

For decades, Segal and George Dunne, the 42nd Ward Democratic committeeman, 
controlled the downtown insurance business. They got oodles of government 
clients and brokered insurance for private developers and real estate owners.

Paul Vallas, the former CEO of the Chicago Public Schools, wouldn't do 
business with Segal, and Vallas made an enemy.

But others provided Segal with plenty of tasty government work. It helped 
maintain the political control of the 42nd Ward, which now encompasses all of 
downtown Chicago, the richest insurance prize in the state.

The 42nd Ward organization also controls the 27th Ward, just west of the 
Loop, where the real estate is booming. The new gentry needs insurance, too.

The 42nd Ward's political protege is Secretary of State Jesse White. 
Recently, White has been embroiled in scandal. He's about finished in 
politics. And Dunne is now an old man.

Though Mayor Daley's family might do business with Segal, and get a job or 
two, the mayor is not close.

A top ally of Daley's has already moved into the 42nd Ward with designs on 
running for alderman.

Once the 42nd Ward organization loses that election, it's over. Developers 
and real estate owners are waiting.

Segal has not been to court, and the government must prove a complicated case.

But words issuing from federal prosecutors like "misappropriation" and 
"converting to personal uses" and "$20 million" don't inspire confidence in 
insurance customers.

So other players must be straining to move into the vacuum. I called John 
Daley at the County Building to see if he had thought of starting a new 
insurance company--say, perhaps, Daley, Degnan & Joyce--to handle the prized 
42nd Ward.

Unfortunately, John didn't return my call.

"Since 9-11, the FBI has been very busy on terrorist issues," said Kneir. 
"But we're not out of the business of white-collar crime. And we'll continue 
to aggressively pursue these types of cases. So stay tuned."

jskass@tribune.com


Copyright (c) 2002, Chicago Tribune


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